Social justice wizard, future library/archives/info mgt student. She/her.
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Non-binary "singular they" endorsed by Merriam-Webser


"Singular 'they': Though singular 'they' is old, 'they' as a nonbinary proonoun is new — and useful", Merriam-Webster Words We're Watching:

Much has been written on they, and we aren't going to attempt to cover it here. We will note that they has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s; that the development of singular they mirrors the development of the singular you from the plural you, yet we don't complain that singular you is ungrammatical; and that regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular they in casual conversation and often in formal writing.

They is taking on a new use, however: as a pronoun of choice for someone who doesn't identify as either male or female. This is a different use than the traditional singular they, which is used to refer to a person whose gender isn't known or isn't important in the context, as in the example above. The new use of they is direct, and it is for a person whose gender is known, but who does not identify as male or female. If I were introducing a friend who preferred to use the pronoun they, I would say, "This is my friend, Jay. I met them at work."

M-W's action got a lot of  media play, mostly positive or neutral — e.g. "Merriam-Webster adds non-binary pronoun 'they' to dictionary" (WaPo), "When Dictionaries Wade Into the Gender (Non)Binary" (NYT), "Merriam-Webster dictionary adds 'they' as nonbinary pronoun" (The Guardian), "Merriam-Webster adds nonbinary 'they' pronoun to dictionary" (NBC), and so on.

Predictably, there were some negative reactions as well, e.g. "'Non-Binary' Nonsense" (The National Review), "The problem with calling Sam Smith 'they'" (The Spectator), "Merriam-Webster Redefines 'They' to Include a Non-Binary Person" (Christian Headlines), etc.

Let's note that the usual political philosophies tend to be inverted in this case — the rightward end of the political spectrum, generally opposed to regulation and in favor of market forces in economic matters, comes down squarely in favor of central planning and control in matters of usage, at least when bottom-up innovations are at issue. See "Authoritarian rationalism is not conservatism", 12/11/2007; "Peever politics", 11/20/2011; "James Kilpatrick, Linguistic Socialist", 3/28/2008; "Querkopf von Klubstick returns", 6/10/2008.

Another politico-linguistic puzzle is the fact that Quaker thee began as a similar sort of authoritarian rationalism — see "George Fox, Prescriptivist" (10/24/2010), and "That false and senseless Way of Speaking" (7/1/2016).



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11 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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Python Insider - powered by FeedBurner

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 increasing the security of the Python Package Index with another new beta feature: scoped API tokens for package upload. This is thanks to a 

grant from the Open Technology Fund

, coordinated by the 

Packaging Working Group

 of the 

Python Software Foundation


Over the last few months, we've 

added two-factor authentication (2FA) login security methods

. We added Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) support in late May and physical security device support in mid-June. Now, over 1600 users have started using physical security devices or TOTP applications to better secure their accounts. And over the past week, over 7.8% of logins to <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> have been protected by 2FA, up from 3% in the month of June.

Now, we have another improvement: 

you can use API tokens to upload packages

 to PyPI and 

Test PyPI

! And we've designed the token to be a drop-in replacement for the username and password you already use (warning: this is a 

beta feature


we need your help to test


How it works: 

Go to your 

PyPI account settings

 and select "Add API token". When you create an API token, you choose its scope: you can create a token that can upload to all the projects you maintain or own, or you can limit its scope to just one project.

The token management screen shows you when each of your tokens were created, and last used. And you can revoke one token without revoking others, and without having to change your password on PyPI and in configuration files.

Uploading with an API token is currently optional but encouraged; in the future, PyPI will set and enforce a policy requiring users with two-factor authentication enabled to use API tokens to upload (rather than just their password sans second factor). Watch 

our announcement mailing list

 for future details.


These API tokens can 


 be used to upload packages to PyPI, and not to log in more generally. This makes it safer to automate package upload and store the credential in the cloud, since a thief who copies the token won't also gain the ability to delete the project, delete old releases, or add or remove collaborators. And, since the token is a long character string (with 32 bytes of entropy and a service identifier) that PyPI has securely generated on the server side,

 we vastly reduce the potential for credential reuse on other sites and for a bad actor to guess the token.

Help us test: 


try this out

! This is a 

beta feature

 and we expect that users will find minor issues over the next few weeks; we ask for your bug reports. If you find any potential security vulnerabilities, please follow our 

published security policy

. (Please don't report security issues in Warehouse via GitHub, IRC, or mailing lists. Instead, please directly email <a href=""></a>.) If you find an issue that is not a security vulnerability, please 

report it via GitHub


We'd particularly like testing from:

  • Organizations that automate uploads using continuous integration
  • People who save PyPI credentials in a .pypirc file
  • Windows users
  • People on mobile devices
  • People on very slow connections
  • Organizations where users share an auth token within a group
  • Projects with 4+ maintainers or owners
  • People who usually block cookies and JavaScript
  • People who maintain 20+ projects
  • People who created their PyPI account 6+ years ago
What's next for PyPI: 

Next, we'll move on to working on an advanced audit trail of sensitive user actions, plus improvements to accessibility and localization for PyPI (some of which have already started). More details are in 

our progress reports on Discourse


Thanks to the 

Open Technology Fund

 for funding this work. And please sign up for the 

PyPI Announcement Mailing List

 for future updates.

Written by Sumana Harihareswara, published initially to <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

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18 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
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Amazon Employees Will Walk Out Over Climate Change Inaction

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“I think it’s totally legitimate to say this is a really harmful industry," Fribley says. "It’s accelerating climate change, it pollutes environments and communities in all these different ways, and it’s really dangerous—and we’re not going to do business with it.”

And in July, The New York Times reported that Amazon had paid $15,000 to sponsor an event organized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank notorious for its attempts to sow public doubt about the scientific consensus on climate change for decades. In a Medium post published in July, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said they were “heartbroken and angry” about the sponsorship and noted that Amazon had also donated to 68 members of Congress in 2018 who consistently voted against climate change legislation. Now, the workers want Amazon to stop funding groups like CEI, as well as politicians who deny the harmful impacts of a warming planet.

Goal Oriented

Amazon has previously set ambitious environmental goals but has yet to attain them. In 2014—just months after Greenpeace published a damning report on the company's energy usage—Amazon pledged to run 100 percent of AWS on renewable energy sometime in the future. It’s so far only met half of its stated goal. Both Google and Apple already power their operations with 100 percent clean energy, and Facebook says it is not far behind.


The WIRED Guide to Climate Change

Earlier this year, members of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice met with company leadership to discuss the retail giant's plans to combat the climate crisis. Fribley says that, during the meeting, he was surprised to learn that Amazon appeared to have few specific environmental objectives. “I think everybody at Amazon knows that’s not how you get stuff done," he says. "That was kind of eye-opening—to hear that there weren’t goals around reducing the amount of carbon Amazon emits.”

Unlike more than 7,000 corporations around the world, Amazon doesn’t report on its environmental impact to CDP, a UK-based nonprofit formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project. This year, the retail giant said it would finally begin tracking its carbon footprint, but it’s developing its own secretive approach. Corporations that disclose data to CDP do so in a standardized way, whereas Amazon is developing its own methodology.

In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson did not address the walkout directly. "Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon," the statement reads, in part. "We have dedicated sustainability teams who have been working for years on initiatives to reduce our environmental impact."

Amazon has announced several new sustainability initiatives in recent months, including Shipment Zero, a goal to have 50 percent of all deliveries reach net carbon zero by 2030. Shortly after the Gizmodo investigation was published, Amazon also announced it would build three new wind farms, its first renewable energy projects in more than two years.

The planned walkout isn’t the first action Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have taken. Last year, a group of several dozen former and current employees, who were given company stock as part of their compensation packages, jointly filed a shareholder resolution that would have forced Amazon to issue a report on how it planned to grapple with climate change.

As the resolution began gaining support internally, Amazon publicly announced Shipment Zero. The next day, Mark Hoffman, a top lawyer at Amazon, asked the workers whether they would now consider withdrawing it. But they decided the goal wasn’t good enough. Instead of taking back their resolution, the employees published a public letter asking Bezos and Amazon’s board of directors to adopt it. Over 8,000 employees publicly signed their names. Though the resolution ultimately didn’t pass, it helped to raise public awareness and build support among employees inside Amazon—and ultimately led to the upcoming walkout.

Growing Dissent

Amazon employees have walked out previously this year, as part of a broader backlash against working conditions in its sprawling warehouses. In March, Amazon workers at a Minnesota warehouse left their posts—likely the first strike ever at an Amazon facility in the United States. Employees at the same fulfillment center went on strike again during the company's annual Prime Day sale in July. Several weeks later, another group of workers at a nearby delivery center in Minnesota also walked off the job.

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34 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
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Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo complimented AFP for raid on home of journalist Annika Smethurst

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By head of investigative journalism John Lyons


Senior public servant Mike Pezzullo telephoned AFP Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan to compliment him on the police raid on the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst.

  • The phone call has led senator Rex Patrick to question the judgment of Mr Pezzullo
  • The documents were obtained under Freedom of Information
  • Mr Pezzullo said it was inaccurate to conflate professional compliments to colleagues with "a supposed attitude to press freedom"

Newly released documents revealed that in an email sent to staff on the evening of the raid, Mr Gaughan said:

"Good work by all involved. I also received a call this evening from the Sec DHA [Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Mr Pezzullo] who is fully supportive of the actions of the AFP and ask [sic] me to pass on my [sic] thanks to the team involved.

"Well done — tomorrow is another day."

The phone call has led South Australian senator Rex Patrick, who obtained the documents, to question the judgment of Mr Pezzullo.

The documents, obtained under Freedom of Information, shed more light on the June 4 raid on the home of Smethurst and the raid the following day on the ABC's Sydney headquarters — which the documents showed the AFP named Operations Woolf and Klasies, respectively.

"The contents of the released documents confirm a lack of judgment at the highest levels of Home Affairs where national strategy and security policy is set," Senator Patrick told the ABC.

"After the raid on Ms Smethurst, alarm bells immediately started ringing for the media, the public, and indeed across government.

"Yet the Secretary of Home Affairs appears to have been blind to public concerns, expressing satisfaction with the raids."

Approached this week by the ABC, Mr Pezzullo confirmed he had made the call to Mr Gaughan.

Asked whether it was appropriate for a senior public servant to express full support for the AFP on an operational matter, Mr Pezzullo said:

"DC Gaughan is a colleague. In the discussion in question, I expressed my compliments to him and his officers on their professionalism and their diligent focus on independently enforcing the laws of the land, as the Parliament has passed them.

"To conflate the expression of professional compliments to colleagues with a supposed attitude to press freedom is not an accurate comparison.

"As per my evidence to the PJCIS [Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security], I was surprised that Ms Smethurst was under investigation and had put the matter out of my mind until DC Gaughan advised me the AFP was in the process of executing the warrant."

Mr Pezzullo referred the ABC to his evidence to the PJCIS which he said addressed the public service working collaboratively with the media to ensure the media could safely, and without endangering sources, establish what was "protected national security information" where lives or crucial capabilities might be at risk.

On August 14, Mr Pezzullo was asked at a PJCIS hearing what he would do if a media organisation came to him with a leaked government document.

He replied that from real-life experience, which had resulted in stories subsequently being produced, there was always scope for negotiation.

"In a sense, you don't really need to talk about the detail of that weapons system or the capabilities of our submarines or how ASIS goes about its business, but you've got the document," he said.

"I might not like the fact that you've got the document, and that goes to the separate question of who the primary discloser is. How is it that the document came to be in the possession of the reporter or the person involved in the news business otherwise?

"But I accept, in a country with a free press, they're gong to publish. So, how is it that you can steer, assist and work with that journalist to ensure that lives are not put at risk, that sources and methods are not compromised?

"It might be that the point of the story they're trying to get at is human rights abuses or maladministration or other facets that are in the public interest, where the capabilities themselves or the systems that we rely upon to keep our country safe don't gratuitously need to be retailed."

But Senator Patrick said at no time since the raid on Smethurst's house and then on the ABC's Sydney headquarters had Mr Pezzullo conceded publicly that the balance between national security and media freedom was not struck in those raids.

He said Mr Pezzullo's own minister, Peter Dutton, had since the raids issued a ministerial directive requiring the AFP to consider media freedom before taking any action against a media outlet.

"Instead, under media and public pressure, Mr Dutton has had to sidestep him [Mr Pezzullo] and issue ministerial directive ordering police to consider the importance of press freedom before investigating reporters," Senator Patrick said.

"I fear Mr Pezzullo is too close to the trees to see the forest, and that's not good for the secretary of a department. Secretaries must be able to stand back and view things objectively from a total public policy perspective."

Topics: police, crime, law-crime-and-justice, government-and-politics, journalism, information-and-communication, australia

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46 days ago
This is not OK.
Melbourne, Australia
46 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
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New chapter for the homeless as City Library hires social worker

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“Our libraries are for everyone,” she says.

The librarians at City Library know Mr Farrell by name and don’t mind that he lost his library card. They waived his fine when his library books were stolen.

The guy who runs Journal Cafe in the library “is really nice and always helps me out”.

“They don’t judge me because I am homeless,” Mr Farrell says. “This is a place you are not going to get turned away.”

He churns through books: “I read a lot of Greek mythology and history, pretty much anything sci-fi, Terry Pratchett is my favourite author.”

But normally in the library he dozes off. “It’s so quiet and warm. This is one place where you won’t get harassed. They have security but they won’t kick you out. One of the rules is that you can fall asleep but you can’t lie down and spread out, snoring your head off.”

The social worker concept comes from similar programs in San Francisco and Denver in the USA.

When Leah Esguerra was appointed to San Francisco Public Library as a social worker in 2009, she recalls a colleague quipping “let me know if they need a social worker at the airport”. “It was so unusual,” she says.

More than 30 libraries across the United States have hired social workers.

In the past decade the San Francisco Public Library has also employed a team of health and safety associates – people with lived experience of homelessness, known as HASAs – to assist with outreach.

“When it’s appropriate they try to disclose their own experience to encourage people to get help,” Ms Esquerra says.

“The library staff have a better understanding of the issues that our patrons deal with such as mental health, poverty, substance use, homelessness, etc, as they interact and work side by side with [those]  who have lived experience with the same issues.”

Mr Farrell welcomes the idea. He says most people who sleep rough are nocturnal, which makes it harder to access homeless services during the day.

“When you sleep outside you are not really sleeping. Even if it’s nice weather, it’s still dangerous. You get a lot of drunks throw stuff at you or kick you. A guy I knew who was sleeping in front of a 7/11 had boiling water poured over him … I have had beers poured on me.”

It would be nice to have someone in his corner, he says. Mr Farrell says he is on a list for housing, but because he does not have mental health problems, children or issues with substance abuse he is not prioritised.

Libraries have been Mr Farrell's safe place ever since his father took him and his sisters to one every Saturday. “I’d work here if they would hire me,” he says.

Jewel Topsfield is Melbourne Editor of The Age.

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46 days ago
Public libraries are a vital social service.
Melbourne, Australia
34 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
46 days ago
Melbourne, Australia
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"I have come from Rome, and all I brought you was this stylus"


So, kurzgesagt, reads the text that runs along all four sides of this two-millennia-old iron writing instrument excavated from an archeological site in London six years ago:

Here's the complete English translation of the inscribed text:

"I have come from the City. I bring you a welcome gift with a sharp point that you may remember me.  I ask, if fortune allowed, that I might be able [to give] as generously as the way is long [and] as my purse is empty."

Source: Kiona N. Smith, "A 2,000-year-old stylus makes a point about ancient Roman humor", Ars Technica (7/31/19)

The stylus dates to around 70 CE—about 20 years after the founding of Roman Londinium, a decade after a Celtic uprising burned it to the ground and about 50 years before the first stones were laid for Hadrian's Wall. It's among 14,000 artifacts unearthed during the construction of Bloomberg's European headquarters starting in 2013, and conservators are finally ready to put it on display.

Even way out here on the northwestern frontier, strong cultural and economic ties bound London to Rome and the rest of the Empire. In the mid-20th century, archaeologists unearthed a temple to Mithras—an Iranian god of justice and contracts who many Roman worshippers adopted around 100-200 CE….

These finds speak to a reality of this ancient world: people travelled constantly from North Africa and across Europe along the Roman road system, and then by ship to London, bringing ideas and beliefs with them. One of those travelers also seems to have brought a cheap souvenir for a friend back home.

The stylus would have been used to etch letters in a layer of wax held in a wooden tablet. Etching away the wax would reveal the pale wood beneath, making the letters stand out against the black wax background. Archaeologists found about 405 of these wax tablets at the Bloomberg site in 2016 and 2017; the several dozen they've translated so far reveal ancient business dealings, legal quarrels, and the logistics of rebuilding London after Boudica and her Celtic army burned most of it to the ground in 60 CE. In fact, some of those tablets contain the oldest written records from Roman Britain.

Archaeologists unearthed about 200 styluses from the site, but this corny little souvenir from Rome is the only one with an inscription. In fact, it's one of just a handful of inscribed styluses from anywhere in the ancient world. It's impossible to say for sure whether that's because details like tiny lettering simply haven't survived time and decay or because stylus inscriptions were actually rare in the Roman Empire. If this one was considered a cheap souvenir, though, it suggests it may have been a pretty common thing.

Tourism, in particular, hasn't changed much in two or three millennia. Archaeologists working in Egypt's Valley of the Kings found Greek and Latin graffiti in the tomb of Pharaoh Ramses VI, who ruled from 1132 to 1125 BCE. They say it dated from around 332 BCE, when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, to the fall of the Roman Empire around 476 CE.

Many of the hastily etched comments would look right at home among modern Yelp reviews. "I visited, and I did not like anything except the sarcophagus!" wrote one visitor. "I cannot read the hieroglyphs!" complained another. The tomb walls even contain comments on the original "posts" from other visitors: "Why do you care that you cannot read the hieroglyphs?" some ancient Roman visitor wrote in response to the comment above. "I do not understand your concern."

Tourism was also a thriving business in premodern Asia, and we have travellers' graffiti all the way from India through Central Asia to East Asia, including some excellent (and also some execrable) poetry.  See "Verses on Walls in Medieval China" by Glen Dudbridge, ch. 10 in Scribbling through History:  Graffiti, Places and People from Antiquity to Modernity, eds. Chloé Ragazzoli, Ömür Harmansah, Chiara Salvador, and Elizabeth Frood (New York:  Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).  Indeed, as we learn from this informative book, graffiti is found throughout history and practically everywhere in the world.

[Thanks to John J. Tkacik]

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